50 YEARS | 50 PHOTOGRAPHS

selected by Wilhelm Schürmann

EXHIBITION Apr 26 — Dec 20, 2024

On the occasion of the Berlin Gallery Weekend, Kicken Berlin is dedicating the exhibition 50 Years | 50 Photographs to mark the gallery's 50th anniversary. Selected by Wilhelm Schürmann - collector, photographer and, in 1974, the gallery’s founding partner together with Rudolf Kicken (†2014) - the exhibition presents works from 50 years of gallery history in Aachen, Cologne and Berlin.

To this day, the almost 250 exhibitions, numerous publications and editions reflect the history of contemporary and historical photography and the pioneering work of its mediation. The gallery's work has always focused on the most important developments in photography since the invention of the medium, as well as selected contemporary positions: from Nineteenth century Pictorialism to the interwar avant-gardes of Bauhaus, the New Vision and New Objectivity - still highly relevant today - the influential Czech modernism, the international movement of Subjective Photography originating in Germany in the 1950s, American New Color Photography and the artistic documentary movements in both East and West Germany since the 1970s, to name but a few.

In 1974, Kicken and Schürmann opened the first show at the "Lichttropfen" (Drops of Light) gallery in Aachen, one of the first galleries in Europe to specialize in the medium of photography. The gallerists were part of a new and fresh younger generation who sought to establish photography in all its aspects as an equal medium in the art world. Networking in and connections to the U.S., where photography was already more esteemed, were as essential as the European representation of Tennyson Schad’s seminal New York Light Gallery. Attending art fairs such as Art Basel or Art Cologne – Cologne being the location of Galerie Rudolf Kicken since 1979 – was an important contribution. The “photo family” was in constant dialogue: it was Bernd Becher for example who recommended to discuss American color photography. Contemporary photographers opened up particular new visions which were vital to the young gallerists. Altogether it was an important concern for Kicken and Schürmann to reestablish masters of the photographic avantgarde who had fallen into oblivion onto the open stage. Cooperations with museums and collections such as Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn or Hannover-based Kestner-Gesellschaft helped to generate public awareness for the photography of the Bauhaus or artists like Werner Mantz or Umbo. Another core subject was the Czech avantgarde: Kicken and Schürmann were able to still meet some of their protagonists in person, like Josef Sudek or Jaroslav Rössler, in Prague and made their works accessible to a greater public.

50 Years | 50 Photographs will reflect the five decades of gallery work in Aachen, Cologne and Berlin with works by selected artists. These include among others Sibylle Bergemann, Ed van der Elsken, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Jaromír Funke, André Kertész, Heinrich Kühn, Werner Mantz, Lisette Model, Gabriele and Helmut Nothhelfer, Helga Paris, Albert Renger-Patzsch, Jaroslav Rössler, Christer Strömholm, Josef Sudek and Umbo.
(Carolin Förster)